Plea for council to 'think twice' over budget pack
CHARGING pensioners more for council services could lead to many becoming isolated, it was warned this week.
Meals on wheels, lunch club and home help costs will all go up by five per cent under a raft of cost-cutting proposals unveiled by East Renfrewshire Council.
The elderly also face being charged for gardening services as the council strives to save £10 million over the next two years to cope with Scottish Government budget cuts.
Age UK, a charity set up to campaign for better welfare rights for the elderly, is urging council chiefs to think again before agreeing to the measures.
Spokesman Doug Anthoney said: "East Renfrewshire, in common with other councils, will have difficult choices to make as a result of the financial downturn. However, we would urge councillors to think twice about introducing or increasing service charges, as this could well lead to a reduction in service usage by vulnerable older people. Where older people become isolated, not only does this have severe consequences for their mental and physical health and wellbeing, it also makes it more likely that they will need high cost residential or hospital care."
Other proposed savings include cutting teacher jobs and well as increasing the cost of school meals by five per cent. Nursery staff could be cut from 27 teachers throughout the council-operated nurseries in the area to 15, with 12 child development officers being brought in.
Primary one teachers on temporary contracts may not see their contracts extended, resulting in bigger classes.
Leisure centre opening hours are also being reviewed.
Labour MSP for Barrhead Hugh Henry said: "Council budgets are being slashed by far more than the Scottish budget cut from Westminster.
"Councils are being forced to make really difficult decisions which will hit people really hard. I know that East Renfrewshire Council will do its best to protect the most vulnerable in our community, despite the restrictions being placed on them.
"Why is Alex Salmond leaving councils to shoulder the burden when these extreme budget cuts from his Government result in a reduction in vital services at a local level?"
Regional MSP, SNP minister Stewart Maxwell, said it was vital the public has a say in what the council's priorities should be.
"It is obviously extremely unfortunate these very difficult decisions are having to be made, but this is an unavoidable result of Westminster cutting the Scottish budget by 11 per cent for the period until 2014-2015," he said.
"The pressures on the public finances of Scotland are unprecedented. The UK Government's cuts are having a significantly negative impact on the lives of local people and I believe it further highlights the ,need for the decisions that affect Scotland to be made in Scotland."
A public consultation is under way on the cuts and a final decision will be made in January. For full details on the proposals visit www.eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk/budget
This article appeared in Barrhead News 28 Nov 12